D. “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be scorned”:
Remember the 1964 song of the Beatles that was entitled, Can’t Buy Me love? The song writer revealed nothing new. The Shulamite woman said to her devoted lover, Solomon, that her love was not for sale. She recognized that Solomon, because of his great wealth, might be tempted to put a price on her love for him. If Solomon would have by chance tried to buy the love of the Shulamite, then his love for her would not be true. Everyone would know that this “love” was based on that which was of this world. Solomon would be scorned for trying to buy the love of a woman, and the love itself would be insincere because it would have been purchase. Bought love has little chance of success.
True love can never be bought. It must be worked for and earned. A woman who would allow her “heart” to be bought by a wealthy man has cheapened her relationship with the man. The agape (love) that should characterize the relationship between a man and woman should never be labeled with a price tag.
There are different perspective of the lobola that is “paid” for a woman in many African marriages. For those of the West who are not familiar with this historical practice that is commonly practiced out among many Africa tribes, lobola is the “price of a bride.” A young suitor who would marry a particular young maiden must pay lobola to the father of the bride, which is usually several cows. The number of cows is determined when the relatives of the young man negotiate with the father of the bride.
The practice of lobola has been judged by the West to be somewhat questionable because the West thinks the opposite in reference to preparation for the marriage of a young man to a woman. In the West, it is the desire of the parents to make sure that the young couple are financially secure in order to begin their marriage. They do not seek to “impoverish” the couple from the beginning of the marriage by demanding “payment” by the future breadwinner at the very beginning of the marriage. But the West often misunderstands the lobola of African cultures.
It is true that some African fathers of brides are trying to get gain out of their daughters in demanding, for example, ten cows, when a young man can give only five. But we must not overlook how the young man should view his love for the young maiden whom he would web. The lobola is his expression of love. If the father of the young maiden asked for ten cows, and the young man was willing to give only one, then the young maiden would think, “Am I not worth more to you than one cow?” The giving of one cow would be an embarrassment to her worth as a woman and wife.
What is often not understood in reference to lobola is that regardless of how many cows the hopeful young man might give to the father of the bride, he will eventually inherit the father’s herd. The father of the bride is simply making sure that the young man builds up his inheritance, not leaving his daughter to live a poverty-stricken life with someone who has no ability to raise a herd of cows and provide for his grandchildren. Would this not also be the desire of a father of the West to see in the young man who would marry his daughter?
In the West, provision is made by the fathers at the beginning of the marriage in order to encourage the financial success of the young man. In Africa the fathers are trying to guarantee provision for their children at the end of their marriage. It depends on whether one is viewing the financial security of the marriage at the beginning or at the end when the couple are in their old age.
And then consider the fact that the emotional energy that is needed to continue a successful marriage actually depends more on the man than the woman. Luscombe wrote,
“One of the more controversial ideas therapists are now suggesting is that men need to do more of the “emotional labor” in a relationship—the work that goes into sustaining love, which usually falls to women’ (Time Magazine, ibid).
Drs. John and Julie Gottman published the result of forty years of research in their book entitled, A Man’s Guide to Women. They essentially concluded that husbands must “man up” to their responsibility of being the primary sustainer in the emotional bond between a husband and wife. They wrote,
What men do in a relationship is, by a large margin, the crucial factor that separates a great relationship from a failed one. This doesn’t mean that a woman doesn’t need to do her part, but the data proves that a man’s actions are the key variable that determines whether a relationship succeeds or fails (quoted by Time Magazine, ibid).
We would conclude that the science of human behavior is now discovering the biblical meaning of the husband as the head in marital relationships. In the Bible, the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us that the man is wired to be the spiritual and emotional head (leader) in the marriage. However, headship is more about emotional and spiritual leadership than authority and rule. It is for this reason that women are always attracted to a man, who to the best of his ability, seeks to be in tune with the emotional needs of a woman. If a husband seeks truly to be the head, then he will sensitize his feelings to be in tune with the emotional needs of his wife. We do not know of any woman who would refuse to having her emotional needs lovingly nurtured.
Before marriage, a young man must examine whether he is about to emotionally lead the young maiden with whom he would be partner for life. His commitment emotionally service a woman in marriage is not something to be taken lightly. How this commitment is made in a particular culture is based on how a commitment is made. When a commitment is made with more than words, as with lobola, the commitment is sincere. If a young African man does not keep his commitment, he will not get his cows back. We must never consider lightly the commitment that two make to one another in the bond (not bondage) of marriage. Think of the commitment in this way: The husband commits himself to be sensitive to the emotional needs of his wife. The wife in turn commits to submitting herself to his loving emotional sensitivity.
Someone once said, “Being someone’s first love may be great, but to be their last is beyond perfect.” It is always good to dream for the perfect love in marriage. However, it is always an impossible dream. It is impossible simply because we are human, and humans have a habit of failing. Therefore, it is not that a married couple never becomes angry with one another, or even irritated. The beauty of agape (love) is not in the problem of how quickly we might become angry with one another, but in how quickly we can resolve our anger and make up.
We must always keep in mind that a young man or woman will never find that perfect person to marry. The perfect mate does not exist. One should seek to find the imperfect person whom they see perfectly through love, just as God sees us perfect through the blood of Christ. When one discovers the perfect person through love, then it is determined that that person is truly worth fighting for. The love of one’s life is always worth “ten cows.” Some church bulletin contained the following statement that young people might do well to memorize when looking for a lifetime partner:
Slow to suspect … quick to trust,
Slow to condemn … quick to justify,
Slow to offend … quick to defend,
Slow to expose … quick to shield,
Slow to reprimand … quick to shield,
Slow to belittle … quick to appreciate,
Slow to demand … quick to give,
Slow to provoke … quick to conciliate,
Slow to hinder … quick to help.
Slow to resent … quick to forgive.
When in a time of confrontation, a married couple would do well to remember the following words that they uttered to one another many years before:
For as much as these two have consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed the same before God and this company, and thereto have given and pledged their oath each to the other, and have declared the same by giving and receiving a ring and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are husband and wife, and what God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
[Next lecture: September 5]